Pliny the Elder, Natural History

LCL 394: 266-267

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Pliny: Natural History

cognomen—Africanorum dedecori inrepentes Scipionum nomini. sed—pace Messalarum dixisse liceat—etiam mentiri clarorum imagines erat aliquis virtutum amor multoque honestius quam mereri, ne quis suas expeteret.


Non est praetereundum et novicium inventum, siquidem non1 ex auro argentove, at2 certe ex aere in bibliothecis dicantur illis, quorum immortales animae in locis iisdem loquuntur, quin immo etiam quae non sunt finguntur, pariuntque desideria non 10traditos vultus, sicut in Homero evenit.3 utique4 maius, ut equidem arbitror, nullum est felicitatis specimen quam semper omnes scire cupere, qualis fuerit aliquis. Asini Pollionis hoc Romae inventum, qui primus bibliothecam dicando ingenia hominum rem publicam fecit. an priores coeperint Alexandreae et Pergami reges, qui bibliothecas magno 11certamine instituere, non facile dixerim. imaginum amorem5 flagrasse quondam6 testes sunt Atticus ille Ciceronis edito de iis volumine, M. Varro benignissimo invento insertis voluminum suorum fecunditati



former surname—in consequence of an act of adoption by will creeping into others’ preserves, to the discredit of the Scipios called Africanus.a But the Messala family must excuse me if I say that even to lay a false claim to the portraits of famous men showed some love for their virtues, and was much more honourable than to entail by one’s conduct that nobody should seek to obtain one’s own portraits!

We must not pass over a novelty that has also beenPortrait-statues in libraries. invented, in that likenesses made, if not of gold or silver, yet at all events of bronze are set up in the libraries in honour of those whose immortal spirits speak to us in the same places, nay more, even imaginary likenesses are modelled and sense of loss gives birth to countenances that have not been handed down to us, as occurs in the case of Homer. At any rate in my view at all events there is no greater kind of happiness than that all people for all time should desire to know what kind of a man a person was. At Rome this practice originated with Asinius Pollio, who first by founding a libraryAfter 39 b.c. made works of genius the property of the public. Whether this practice began earlier, with the Kings of Alexandria and of Pergamum,b between whom there had been such a keen competition in founding libraries, I cannot readily say. The existence of a strong passion for portraits in former days is evidenced by Atticus the friend of Cicero in the volume he published on the subject and by the most benevolent invention of Marcus Varro, who actually by some means inserted in a prolific output of

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.pliny_elder-natural_history.1938